How messaging platforms personalise brands at scale


By Jess Thoms

Connecting to customers now demands an experience that extends beyond storytelling. The digital landscape is crowded, with brands scrambling to navigate emerging platforms and what to say to who, and when, and where. But brands can also be wasting time trying to appeal to the masses, when they have the opportunity to deliver personalised experiences at scale through conversational interfaces.

The ‘always on’, global, and digitally native customer demands more from brand interactions and created the expectation of real time messaging contact. Personalised communication has evolved from SMS notifications and segmented social media advertisements, to one-on-one communication through conversational experiences like chatbots.

Chatbots for business

Chatbots use ‘conversation as a platform’ as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella describes. Removing the need to download seperate apps, chatbots live on messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, Kik, and Skype — and are accessible through a simple search. Chatbots can be used simply for brand engagement, or have a functional service like facilitating bookings, ecommerce, delivering targeted information, or customer service.

Brands taking the lead in engaging conversational experiences are tailoring their chatbot personas to directly reflect their target audience for the best chance of retention and engagement. Sephora recently announced not one, but two new chatbots for Facebook Messenger in a move to provide their customers with specific services including making reservations for makeovers, and lipstick colour matching.

Mary Beth Laughton, SVP of Digital for Sephora, noted that the separate bots were created to offer more streamlined process for their customers and enhance their engagements with the brand.

“This allows us to provide richer, more varied conversations that ensure clients get exactly what they want out of the experience.”
— Mary Beth Laughton, SVP of Digital for Sephora.

These chatbots allow Sephora to have a personal conversation with their customers — but at scale.

Tailoring brand messages

Marketing involves tailoring messages to the right audience. Messaging allows brands to tailor a personality, conversation, and entire interaction to suit their target audience.

Think of messaging and conversational commerce as an extension of a content marketing strategy — making conversations the content, and converting conservations into customers. Scaling personalisation means greater engagement with a brand’s target demographic and developing relationships that promote brand trust.

Brands that cater for niche audiences are no stranger to developing brand voices and personalities. Email news service theSkimm uses a “best friend element” that makes the news digestible for a female millennial audience, after founders Danielle Weisberg & Carly Zakin realised that their friends were not consuming news through traditional television channels. Speaking to Sophia Amoruso on Girlboss Radio, Weisberg & Zakin described their product’s ‘voice’ as an intentional attempt to create a personality that can relay information in a way that makes their users laugh, but that they can also trust. They point to news anchors being a long time source of trust for viewers, and they wanted to translate that trusted persona into a digital product. The key element for their product is trust — and trust needs to be built in a personal way.

Content is still king, but in messaging platforms — planning a personality that informs your dialogue and entire interaction with consumers is critical.

Brands now have the chance to be friends.

Personalisation requires careful planning

Who are your customers talking to? Brands need to carefully consider the voice of their company, and how this translates into conversations. Personifying brands is crucial in marketing, and these authentic narratives are still needed for conversation development.

Building a rich and detailed personality for chatbots makes them more relatable, believable, and relevant to users. This personality is informed in part by brand values, existing copy, and marketing messages — but needs to reflect the goals of the user and represent a ‘person’ they would actually talk to. Is the bot funny? Flirty, serious, witty, or sarcastic? Does it have a gender, and does it have a favourite food? Does it know it is a bot? Is it there to entertain, provide information, or streamline transactions?

Establishing a personality then evolves into dialogue. The bot’s script, images, copy, titles, tone of voice, and use of emoji’s all need to be ‘on brand’ and represent the personality effectively. Would they actually say that? Use that phrase?

All these steps are essential in creating authentic brand experiences that will engage users on messaging platforms. Brands who are willing to invest in creative development and broadening their storytelling abilities will ultimately win at conversational experiences.